With New Leadership In Washington Congress Must Deliver Comprehensive Federal Aid

Published on January 12, 2021, 11:46 am
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Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called on President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver a comprehensive federal aid package that addresses both critical short-term needs and prepares to build back a stronger, more inclusive 21st century economy.

New York City is still reeling from the CoViD-19 pandemic that claimed the lives of more than 25,000 New Yorkers, an economic crisis that shuttered more 2,800 small businesses at its height with a third more currently at risk of closure, and mass unemployment that has left nearly half a million people without work.

With new leadership on the horizon in Washington, Comptroller Stringer outlined New York City’s need for both an immediate equitable recovery and to address the numerous challenges that have cumulated over the past four years and longer – including support for the city’s ongoing CoViD-19 response, transportation, public housing, education, health care, child care and paid family leave, affordable housing and more.

Comptroller Stringer presented New York City’s most urgent and important needs, encompassing both policy and fiscal changes, and short-term and long-term priorities:

Expedite CoViD-19 Relief

The next stimulus package must address the economic realities faced by state and local governments, which collectively face a revenue shortfall of $467 billion over three years, according to Brookings Institution estimates. New York City has committed nearly $5.5 billion to fight CoViD, while suffering a $7.5 billion revenue shortfall. New York State faces an $8.7 billion shortfall next year, and the threat of local aid cuts hangs over all New York State local governments. Without assistance from the federal government, New York City faces the prospect of having to cut crucial services and potentially lay off municipal workers.  In addition, the next stimulus package should include:

  • Canceling student debt for distressed borrowers;
  • Making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable;
  • Implementing a national moratorium on evictions and additional rental assistance of at least $50 billion;
  • Raise direct payments to $2,000 and extend unemployment assistance;
  • Emergency vouchers and grants to help those at risk of homelessness remain sheltered.

Address Food Insecurity and Nutrition

Food insecurity is not new in our country but the pandemic has exacerbated the need to crisis levels. Before CoViD-19, there were more than 25 million people, including 11 million children, living in food insecure households in our country. According to data from Feeding America, those numbers may now be as high as 50 million households including 17 million children.

  • Remove enrollment barriers and simplify nutrition benefits application processes;
  • Pass legislation to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by replacing the “thrifty” food plan with the “low cost” food plan;
  • Expand and improve online SNAP ordering to better allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits online to order groceries;
  • Ensure sufficient federal reimbursements to provide all elementary, middle and high school students with breakfast, lunch and afterschool meals free of charge.

Restore the Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The transit aid included in the stimulus bill passed last month, which included $4 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), provides a down payment on the Authority’s needs. Without further federal support, the MTA could be forced into drastic cutbacks that could paralyze the nation’s largest public transit network. Ridership and farebox revenue have plummeted at the MTA, creating a $16 billion deficit. A hobbled MTA would profoundly damage the environment, quality of life for commuters, and above all the economic recovery of the nation’s largest city.

  • Ensure that the MTA is on sound financial footing by providing support for both capital and operating needs;
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) should immediately approve congestion pricing in Manhattan’s business district;
  • Pass the Moving Forward Act, which would provide $100 million for transit – while also extending commuter tax benefits to include bikes, e-bikes, and bike share memberships.

Reverse Decades of Disinvestment in Public Housing

More than three-quarters of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residential buildings are more than 40 years old, yet federal capital funding to NYCHA continuously declined from 2001 through 2013, resulting in a cumulative funding loss of more than $1 billion. As support fell, NYCHA’s unmet capital needs for its 2,371 residential buildings ballooned to more than $40 billion, including faulty boilers and ventilation systems, broken elevators, and leaking roofs. If it remains unaddressed, it is estimated to rise to nearly $68 billion in the next decade. NYCHA residents routinely suffer through heat and hot water outages and wait months for basic repairs. It is time for the federal government to meet its capital obligations to public housing and fully fund the outstanding capital needs as part of a new infrastructure bill.

Address Health Care Inequities

Since March, Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have been hospitalized and lost their lives at twice the rate of white residents. These disparities are the result of structural inequities in access to care and socioeconomic and environmental conditions that expose low income communities of color to greater health risks. In 2010, the Obama-Biden administration drastically expanded access to care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), resulting in nearly 20 million more people insured through 2016. While the Trump administration used every regulatory, administrative, legal and policy tool to attack the law, the new administration has the opportunity to address health care inequities by bolstering and expanding the ACA.

  • Enhance and expand eligibility for subsidies and develop a public option for anyone who wants it, including all non-citizen immigrants;
  • Provide support to health care providers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic;
  • Rescind planned cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding that provide critical funds for safety net hospitals;
  • Provide broader access to comprehensive, culturally competent reproductive health care, including by prioritizing funding for providers through Title X.

Adopt Universal Child Care and Paid Leave

The closure of schools and child care programs across the country has had a devastating impact on children and their families. Children are losing precious time to socialize, learn and grow, while parents – largely mothers – are being forced out of the workforce. Since February, 4.4 million American workers have dropped out of the labor force; about 60% of them are women. Congress must act to adopt universal child care and paid leave.

  • Child care providers immediately need at least $50 billion in a Child Care Stabilization Fund, as proposed in the Child Care is Essential Act;
  • Pass the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act and the Child Care for Working Families Act which would dramatically expand access to quality care and lower costs for families;
  • Support families through all stages of life by providing job-protected paid leave to all;
  • Fight for an extension of emergency paid sick leave and paid family leave for the duration of the pandemic and close the loopholes that have left millions without access;
  • Swiftly pass the FAMILY Act to ensure that workers will no longer have to choose between their livelihoods and caring for their children or sick family members.

Invest in Infrastructure

To reverse the economic disruption caused by CoViD-19, our country requires a robust and sustainable stimulus package that can build out the infrastructure that undergirds a 21st century economy. A stimulus package that focuses on infrastructure can create good, union jobs that put Americans to work, inject billions into local economies, and fix our crumbling roads and bridges, electrical grid, and transit systems and expand broadband access to all communities. Investing in infrastructure will benefit our economy right now and for decades to come.

  • Put forward an ambitious infrastructure plan that can help New York City bring long-gestating projects to fruition and put shovels in the ground on brand new visions for a better City;
  • Fully fund the Gateway Tunnel, often deemed as the nation’s most critical infrastructure project, to double the capacity of Northeast Corridor Trainlines;
  • Complete the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, bringing the “Q” line from Second Avenue and 96th Street to Lexington Avenue and 125th Street;
  • Fund the City’s Internet Masterplan to bring universal broadband across the five boroughs by lining every street with open access fiber optic infrastructure;
  • Retool federal transportation grants to fund not just roads but build a five-borough bike infrastructure that will drastically increase opportunities for safe cycling in New York City.

Adopt Fair Tax Policies

After four years of tax cuts and loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers, it is time to restore fairness to the federal tax code.

  • Reduce the burden on working families by increasing the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), while paring back corporate tax cuts;
  • Reverse the unfair limitation on state and local tax deductions;
  • Restore tax-exempt advance refundings to allow state and local governments to reap the benefits of comparatively low interest rates.

Address the Housing Affordability Crisis

In the years leading up to the CoViD-19 pandemic, cities like New York have suffered from an affordable housing crisis. Nearly 565,000 New York households pay over half of their income for rent, are severely overcrowded, or have been in homeless shelters for over a year. Without serious public investment, we know where the new eviction crisis will strike and how devastating it will be for predominantly low income neighborhoods of color still reeling from the virus. We need a federal response that restores protections lost under the Trump administration and goes further to address long-standing inequities in housing and community development.

  • Fully fund Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) (formerly Section 8);
  • Implement lessons from mobility research to end source of income-based discrimination in HCV;
  • Fund a Federal Renters Tax Credit program to provide crucial relief to low and moderate-income families;
  • Increase funding of the Housing Trust (HTF) and Capital Magnet Funds (CMF) by increasing the basis points for government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) user fees.

Invest in Education

The CoViD-19 pandemic laid bare deep inequities in our education system. Additionally, with the economic crisis, schools that depend on Title I funding will be facing increased budget strains for years to come. Support must be provided to students experiencing homelessness and students with disabilities, while enhancing afterschool or summer programming for low income youth.

  • Increase Title I funding;
  • Raise the federal share of funding for additional costs associated with educating students with disabilities; 
  • Expand Perkins funding for Career and Technical Education and Workforce Investment Opportunity funding for job training;
  • Create a new funding stream to make community college tuition-free and provide wrap-around services for these students based on the CUNY ASAP model.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | Bronx.com - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.